Office for the Public Sector

Policy

FAQs

The Code of Ethics for the South Australian Public Sector is the Code of Conduct under the Public Sector Act 2009. You can find information about the Code of Conduct in Part 4, Section 15 and Section 6 of that Act.

It is the responsibility of each person employed in the public sector to familiarise themselves with the Code and ensure that they follow it.

Does the Code of Ethics apply to me?

The Code of Ethics applies to and binds anyone employed in the South Australian public sector. If you are employed in the South Australian public sector then this Code applies to you regardless of whether you are employed on a full-time, part-time, or casual basis, and regardless of your occupation.

It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the content of the Code of Ethics and conduct yourself in a way that is consistent with the values and standards of professional conduct that it contains.

Some public sector employees, such as police, fire fighters, health professionals and lawyers, are bound by codes of conduct specific to their profession. In such cases, employees must comply with the Code of Ethics for the South Australian Public Sector as well as their professional code.

Is there anyone the Code of Ethics does not apply to?

The Code of Ethics applies only to people who are employed in the South Australian public sector.

It does not apply to volunteers who work with South Australian government organisations, employees of local government or employees of the Commonwealth government.

Who is responsible for deciding what is in the Code?

The Code of Ethics is issued by the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment under the Public Sector Act 2009. For more information on the role of the Commissioner you should see Part 4 of the Act, particularly Section 15 which covers the public sector code of conduct.

As well as issuing the Code, the Commissioner is required to keep the Code under review, and may vary the Code, or revoke and substitute the Code.

Why was the Code of Ethics revised?

The Code has been updated to ensure its relevance to a modern public sector in South Australia. It incorporates the views provided by employees of the public sector and other stakeholders since the Code was last issued in 2010.

In particular, the inclusion of the Public Sector Values reflects the desire to have the Code act as a single point of reference for the expected behaviours of employees.

What has changed in this version of the Code of Ethics?

The changes in the current version of the Code of Ethics compared with the version issued in 2010 that it replaced, are:

  • The 2010 version of the Code of Ethics was divided into two sections. The first section provided an overview of values, while the second section covered the Professional Conduct Standards.
  • The 2015 Code is divided into four parts:
    • Application of the Code, specifically the role of chief executives and other leaders, the role of employees, and the role of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment
    • The four foundations of public service – Democracy, Impartiality, Accountability, and Diversity
    • Public Sector Values
    • Professional Conduct Standards.
  • The Public Sector Values were developed as a result of input by Ministers, chief executives and over 600 other public sector employees in early 2013. These values reflect the passion of those participants for providing excellent public service and having great places in which to work.
  • The changes to the professional conduct standards focus largely on wording rather than substantive content. The notable changes are:
    • Public Comment – the Public Comment section of the 2010 Code is directed to employees acting in an “official capacity.” In the 2015 Code this reference to “official capacity” has been dropped in recognition of the ubiquitous use of social (public) platforms – largely, but not exclusively, digital – in personal as well as professional lives. This is further reflected in noting that public comment “includes providing information or comment to or in any media (electronic and print), including posting comment on the internet and speaking engagements.” The private conduct of public sector employees is protected under section 15(2) of the Public Sector Act 2009.
    • Handling Official Information – along with not disclosing official information or misusing information (as per the 2010 Code), in the 2015 version of the Code employees must also “not access or attempt to access official information other than in connection with the performance by them of their duties and/or as authorised.”
    • Outside employment – the requirement of employees in the sector to seek approval for outside employment has been extended from full time employees to include all employees.
    • The 2015 version of the Code of Ethics obliges employees to cooperate if they are potential witnesses or otherwise capable of assisting in respect of the suspected or alleged misconduct of another public sector employee. This merely articulates in the Code an obligation on employees under common law.

The Code of Ethics was drafted by the Office for the Public Sector and the Crown Solicitor’s Office.

What happens to the previous version of the Code of Ethics?

The previous version of the Code of Ethics for the South Australian Public Sector has been revoked. It has been archived and is still available if required.

The previous Code no longer applies to you. You now need to comply with the current Code.

Did you consult on the new version of the Code of Ethics?

In order to develop the current version of the Code, we consulted with departmental chief executives and other heads of organisations in the South Australian public sector, as well as Human Resources directors. Public sector employee associations were also provided with a draft version.

The Public Sector Values were developed by Ministers, chief executives and over 600 other public sector employees in early 2013. These values reflect the passion of those participants for providing excellent public service and having great places in which to work.

Who do I speak to if I have trouble understanding the Code, or am unsure about its content?

In the first instance you should speak to your manager or a colleague. The meaning and intent of the Code should be the subject of open debate amongst employees.

If you are still unsure then you can contact someone in your Human Resources division or section.

Finally, if you require further information you can contact us.

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